HuffPost Rising

The Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

HuffPost Rising


THE SOURCE: "Six Degrees of Aggregation" by Michael Shapiro, in The Columbia Journalism Review, May-June 2012.

Publications across the internet are struggling to keep their heads above water, but The Huffington Post appears to have made it safely to land. The New York-based Post attracts 1.2 billion page views a month. It won its first Pulitzer Prize, for a series of features on severely wounded veterans, in April. A struggling AOL plunked down $315 million for ownership rights last year. How in the world did the crazy-eyed news site formerly thought of as a "glitzy thief of journalism" ascend to such heights?

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

If HuffPosts success could be boiled down to three words, they would be network, network, network, writes journalist Michael Shapiro. The first version of the Web site to hit the Internet, in 2004, featured commentary by an unlikely pair, comedian Larry David and the late Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., both friends of the site's linchpin, left-leaning socialite Arianna Huffington. The fount of contributors, fed by Huffington's substantial Rolodex, has never dwindled. Celebrities and ordinary people alike now clamor to place unpaid articles on the site, gaining only exposure and the chance to be perceived as part of the Huffington Post club.

HuffPost's first traffic guru, Jonah Perretti (who has since moved to Buzzfeed. com), believed that most content had to be both "viral and sticky": It had to encourage people to visit again, and had to be so "engagingly simple" that the average reader, trapped in front of her office computer, would dispatch it to a friend with little comment. Often these pieces were links to more traditional journalistic sources with a new headline and HuffPost's logo slapped on them. …

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